The Readymade Fallacy

Often when we are impressed by someone’s work we tell ourselves stories to explain their success. They had an education I didn’t have, so they were perfectly suited to do that; they were just naturally good at it; they had momentum behind them; they had money behind them; they knew the right people; they look better than I do, so people naturally like them; they’re extroverted, so they can express themselves that way on TV; they’re introverted, so they can hole up for months on end to write that book…

Many of these explanations commit the Readymade Fallacy. We see only the end product of success, and never the process and hard slog that went into it. Behind almost all success stories is hard work, day after day, refusing to make excuses for oneself, refusing to be distracted. Very often the starting point from which someone went on to become a success was from a more difficult place than we are presently in. But in our blindness to the hard work that went into something successful, we fall back on narratives to explain why they could do something that I couldn’t.

Narratives that put success down to something intrinsic in that person give us a way out of what is in reality just the necessity of hard work. If it was down to their education, or their good looks, or their being introverted, then there’s no point me starting a similar project, since I’m not cut out for it in the way they are. We need not begin that project we had planned, since we won’t succeed like they did because of their (insert any trait here).

Don’t mistake hard work for innate traits. In doing so, we merely give ourselves excuses for not doing what we really should do. What we actually need to do is to write, dance, sing, record, train, practice, study, work… hour after hour, day after day. There’s no innate character trait for that, since persistence is a learned mindset.

Author: mmoorejones

New Zealander and Philosophy, Politics and Economics student at Yale-NUS College.